Cyprus and Saudi Arabia have witnessed significant momentum in strategic bilateral and multilateral relations, both politically and economically. Cyprus is a high-growth market which offers significant opportunities for Saudi companies and investors across a range of sectors such as tourism, technology and energy, says Ambassador Stavros Avgoustides.
Cyprus and Saudi Arabia have actively been deepening their ties in recent years, how would you describe the current bilateral relations between the two nations?
The canvas of our engagement looks very different from what it was three or four years ago. It is now firmly set on a new trajectory of growth and enhanced engagement. Together with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we are building a relationship based on mutual trust, respect, and a common vision. The vision of peace, stability and prosperity for our two peoples and the region.
Cyprus and Saudi Arabia have a similar mindset and share the same goals and aspirations as nations in the regional and international sphere. The pandemic, and current events remind us how interdependent we are, and why we need to strengthen our multiple partnerships to face an increasingly competitive international and regional environment.
Our people-to-people relations and trust has been continuously strengthened through constant reciprocal high-level visits. Indeed, despite the disruptions in engagements due to the Covid situation over the last two years the rhythm of high-level contacts has been maintained. The visit of HE the President of the Republic of Cyprus to the Kingdom, and the upcoming visit to Cyprus later this year of HRH the Crown Prince, as well as the exchange of visits of a good number of high officials from both countries, are testaments of how far the relationship has matured.
When it comes to bilateral agreements and memoranda, we are in favour of ‘quality’ over ‘quantity’. The idea is to grow people to people relations through business, educational, cultural exchanges. We are now focusing on specific areas that will potentially have a direct positive impact on the two peoples and societies.
What kind of joint projects or initiatives do the two countries participate in at the moment, and what new prospects are there to increase economic cooperation?
As previously mentioned, we have witnessed a significant momentum in our strategic bilateral and multilateral relations, both political and economic. Despite the limitations caused by the pandemic, Riyadh and Jeddah Chamber in collaboration with the Cyprus Chamber of Industry organised last June the first of Cyprus-Saudi Business Forums in the two Saudi cities. These events and ones to follow are great testament to the growing strength of Cyprus-Saudi Arabia relations and provide a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs and members of the business community from both friendly countries to learn more about the advantages of these attractive investment destination and to hear about the prospects and the current market opportunities.
Indeed, businesses from both countries use these Forums to forge networks as well as engage in business-to-business transactions. We are working together with the business people of both countries and explore new avenues and opportunities for bilateral trade and investments. As previously mentioned, we see it more as people-to-people interactions. Our Embassy encourages businesses from Cyprus to expand their footprint in the Kingdom and start building relationships with their Saudi Arabian counterparts.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is undergoing significant changes, economically and socially. Indeed, the ongoing reforms have led to a significant increase of FDI’s in the Kingdom. Indeed, the results of the Vision 2030 are evident in our daily lives and interactions. The positive state of our bilateral relations offers a unique opportunity to build momentum to deepen economic ties in this longstanding and enduring partnership. Deepening the economic relationship would pay dividends in other areas as well, translating into greater opportunities for strategic bilateral cooperation.
The production of mutually beneficial results will demand time, resources, and political capital. Cyprus and Saudi Arabia would benefit from a closer and stronger trade and foreign direct investment relationship that would amplify growth and prosperity, in both the short and long terms. This is why we have applauded the creation of the Cyprus-Saudi Arabia Business Association, which itself supports the concrete steps need to be taken toward deepening the commercial/ business relationship between our two countries. Moreover, it is with great pleasure that we recently witnessed the singing for the creation of the Saudi-Cyprus Business Council, which will involve business people from both countries, and we are confident it will create a mutually beneficial framework to foster the bilateral flow of goods, services, and investments.
Cyprus is a strong regional hub and EU base for international business and offers many advantages for companies engaged in cross-border activities, what advantages does Cyprus offer specifically to Saudi business?
Saudi business and investors do not differ from other international businesses. They seek a safe, a stable and trustworthy service-oriented business environment. That’s why many international companies from different sectors have already chosen Cyprus as the location for their regional headquarters.
Cyprus provides an element of political and economic stability, an excellent quality of life and an efficient and productive labour force. All these create a competent and conducive business environment. Concurrently, Saudi businesses can use Cyprus as a convenient entry point into the EU marketplace, a bridge for expanding their business networks and seek new opportunities.
What sectors or niche segments in Cyprus do you think have untapped potential in terms of attracting direct investment from Saudi Arabia?
Cyprus is a high-growth market which offers significant opportunities for Saudi companies and investors across a range of sectors. To this end, I would like to particularly highlight the importance of the Joint Statement issued following the President’s recent visit to Riyadh [1/3/2022], which signifies inter alia our willingness to push further the enhancement of our bilateral relations, towards their elevation to a full-fledged strategic cooperation.
In the Joint Statement, which we envision to use as a road map in our bilateral relations, special emphasis is given in certain areas such as tourism, high-tech and digital economy, education, maritime and energy sectors. More specifically in the energy sector, it is our strong belief that Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean will potentially play a role in the EU’s hydrogen strategy. Saudi entities may also participate in the advancing of the energy transition in the East Mediterranean and towards the expansion of renewable energies and electricity interconnection.
Long term, Saudi Arabia also has promising potential for supporting EU’s hydrogen strategy through Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean. Saudi Arabia inspires and will become in the coming years the biggest producer of the clean energy source. Cyprus can act as an ‘energy bridge’ interconnecting the biggest hydrogen production plant, currently under construction in the planned city of Neom on the Red Sea coast, with Europe.
How do you see the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Cyprus developing in the future?
We need to continue on a step-by-step approach; by setting viable goals in our bilateral relations. As for our more immediate goals, establishing direct air connectivity remains a strong priority for both countries. We strongly believe that the establishment of direct flights is a game changer, and we are strongly pursuing it, despite the setbacks caused mainly by the pandemic and the problematic global financial situation. The production of mutually beneficial and viable results in our bilateral relations will demand time, resources, and political capital, but the future is bright.